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The United States emerged as the world’s sole superpower from the embers of the Cold War’s end, without, however, a wholesale reformulation of the principles and tools used to execute US grand strategy. This was particularly true in Europe, where the United States remained engaged politically, economically, and military; retained significant numbers of forward-deployed forces; and orchestrated the continuation and eventual expansion of NATO. For the United States, and for many Europeans, continued American dominance after 1991 of the continent’s security through NATO was a logical outgrowth of what Washington had provided in the West after 1945. Even within the context of America’s leadership of NATO, alternative strategies to the ultimate path of NATO’s post-1999 enlargement were possible. These included the Partnership for Peace, initially seen as an alternative to NATO enlargement formulated by the Pentagon; some enlargement of NATO to the east, but not as much as occurred; and a concrete path for Russia to join the alliance. This chapter considers the pros and cons of each of these alternatives to the NATO enlargement policy chosen by the United States and its partners in order to provide a more detailed assessment of the policy than has existed previously.
Immediately after the collapse of communism in Europe, many students of international relations predicted a return to balance-of-power politics among the great European powers. Others foresaw new balancing between the United States and Europe as the international system moved from a bipolar order to a multipolar world. A decade later, the distinguished observer Joseph Joffe argued that Western Europe and Russia might join together to offset American power: “Ten years after victory in the cold war, the United States is still No. 1 by any conceivable measure. But the lesser actors – Russia, Europe, China – are beginning to make true what history and political theory have predicted all along: Great powers will generate ‘ganging up.’ Nos. 2, 3, and 4 will seek to balance against Mr. Big.” And a recent book by a leading Europe scholar, Charles Kupchan, predicts that a united Europe will emerge as America's main long-term strategic challenger.
Joffe, Kupchan, and other realists like John Mearsheimer and Kenneth Waltz eventually may be right. Perhaps the German, French, and Russian coalition during the 2003 Iraq war is just the beginning. In the future, realpolitik and balance of power may return as the organizing principles of international politics on the European continent. Someday, the “lesser” powers may seek to balance against the United States. To date, however, what is more striking is how wrong these realist predictions since 1989 have proven to be.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, nationalism remains alive and well across an increasingly integrated Europe. While most nationalisms are not violent, the desire for greater national voice by both states and groups continues to exist in both the East and the West. As the European Union deepens and widens, states and groups are choosing among four nationalist strategies: traditional, substate, transsovereign, and protectionist. The interplay among these nationalisms is a core part of Europe's dynamic present and future.
As the world moves away from the familiar bipolar cold war era, many international relations theorists have renewed an old debate about which is more stable: a world with two great powers or a world with many great powers. Based on the chief assumptions of structural realism—namely, that the international system is characterized by anarchy and that states are unitary actors seeking to survive in this anarchic system—some security analysts are predicting that a world of several great powers will lead to a return to the shifting alliances and instabilities of the multipolar era that existed prior to World War II. For instance, John Mearsheimer argues that “prediction[s] of peace in a multipolar Europe [are] flawed.” Thomas Christensen and Jack Snyder argue that states in a multipolar world can follow either the pre-World War I or the pre-World War II alliance pattern, thus implying that a third course is improbable. They further assert that “the fundamental, invariant structural feature, international anarchy, generally selects and socializes states to form balancing alignments in order to survive in the face of threats from aggressive competitors.” The realist argument predicts that great powers in a self-help international system will balance one another through arms races and alliance formations.
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